Welcome to Writers On The Web!

Welcome to my new column, Writers On The Web! As the name suggests, I’ll be exploring how writers can further their careers and find a viable audience for their work by producing their own web content. I’ll be exploring the entire production process of a web series from conception through distribution, which, not unlike birthing and raising a child, can be exhilarating, fun, and inspiring, and also scary, stressful, and downright painful! (I will attempt to ease the scary, stressful, and painful parts through my articles.) The column will also include interviews with writers, producers, directors, and distributors who work in the web space, providing advice and insight on creating your own content.

Photo Credit: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Photo Credit: Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

I do not claim to be a web producing expert. I am, however, an award-winning writer and producer (under the banner of Freebird Entertainment) and I have written and/or produced over 12 short films, many of which have won awards and screened at film festivals internationally, including at Cannes last month. Several of my films have found distribution on television, digital platforms, and PBS. I have also worked in casting on shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as studio and indie features.

To educate myself on web producing, I took coursework at WebTV Workshop in Los Angeles, which focused exclusively on producing and distribution for the web, as well as a separate course at The Writers Store on self-publishing books. Additionally, I have done hundreds of hours of research on producing web content over the past few years. I produced a web pilot in 2010, learned a lot from my mistakes, and have now successfully written and produced the web series Split, along with my writing and producing partner, Gabrielle Glenn. We’re in post-production right now on our first season. I’m constantly learning every day, and will be right in the trenches with you, sharing my journey as we both stumble along our path to web greatness.

I’d like to focus my first article on two compelling reasons why writers should produce their own work. I hear your cries: “I just want to be a writer! If I wanted to be a producer, I’d go be a producer, for Pete’s sake! I don’t want to deal with contracts and hiring and insurance and casting and release forms and all that garbage.”

Well, as I’m sure everyone can attest, the landscape for filmmaking has significantly changed over the last few years, for better and for worse. I think we all know how it’s changed for the worse.  I’d like to focus on how it’s changed for the better.

1)   It has never in history been easier to produce your own work.  

For the first time ever, you do not need anyone’s permission to write, produce, and distribute your work for the world to see.  Thanks to the advent of YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon Createspace, among other sites, you can showcase your writing talent ‘til your heart’s content and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to stop you.

You actually now have the ability to write a script, shoot it on something as small as an iPhone, and place it online for an audience of millions, for free.  You can now write a book on any subject of your choice and retail it to millions of potential customers on Amazon.com for free, with no one to tell you “no.”  Think about that. Whether you want to be a screenwriter, write for a series, or be a published author, you can make that dream happen for yourself – right now. It’s amazing, and incredibly liberating.

Now one might object: “Filmmaking isn’t free!  I have to pay for actors and crew and locations and food and music and editing!”  This is all potentially true. If you fall into the boat of many of us nowadays who operate under a tight budget, there isn’t much spare income to put a production together. However, my specialty is low-budget filmmaking, and with a little creativity and drive, I believe any one of you reading this right now can produce your work for less than you likely spend each month at Starbucks, and throughout the course of this column I will show you how.

2)   There’s no excuse to be “unsuccessful” anymore.

I recently overheard a fellow writer talking about “waiting” for “success” to come his way.  Many people buy into this fallacy, in my opinion, by equating success to “making good money” and “getting permission from others to do the work I want to do.”

For example, if you’re staffed on a series, or hired for a writing assignment, you may not only be making good money but you’ve also been approved by authority figures who decided that your work is good and acceptable. This model fits the widely-accepted definition of success. Does this mean that writers who aren’t currently staffed or on assignment are unsuccessful?

It’s time to change that definition. We need to find success in the enjoyment of the process of getting where we want to go, rather than obsessing over the destination… that proverbial pot o’gold at the end of the rainbow. A fantastic way to begin enjoying your process is to self-produce your writing and create your own career successes.

For those of us not currently hired by someone else to write:  which would you rather say to a potential employer/agent/manager?

“I’m not currently staffed or on assignment right now. I’m writing spec scripts, keeping them in a drawer, submitting to a few contests and fellowships year after year, waiting for my ship to come in.”

OR

“I’ve written and produced a web series, which is making the rounds on the festival circuit and is starting to attract an audience on YouTube, bringing in some ad revenue. I also turned that web series concept into a TV pilot that’s ready to pitch, and a book, which is retailing on Amazon, and I’m starting to collect some royalties.”

I’m just sayin’.

No more excuses.

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